Interview with Kadri Mälk

Interview  /  Artists   Making
Published: 03.01.2007
Interview with Kadri Mälk.
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(...) In jewellery I am fascinated by its intimacy and the situation where a tiny object may incorporate such a powerful secrecy. Small things contain the secret key to the big ones. (...)
In some texts on your work the concepts introspection, mystery or spirituality can be found as identity sights of your work. Are they in your opinion, suitable concepts to define it?
Every concept, any notion, any emotion that is evoked in the beholder’s eye while looking at a piece of art, is true. Mostly it tells more about the viewer than about the work. If one can notice spirituality in my jewellery it reflects the spirituality in the psyche of the viewer. Similar attracts similar. There is mystery present in your soul when you become fascinated by mystery in my work. It’s that simple.

Do you think you belong to a tradition? What is there of local and universal in your artistic work?
I’m careful in generalising. Tradition is a kind of need for a myth. And the myth, mythos – it fulfils itself constantly with a new content, when time goes by. Tradition is a continuous renewal, never a dead pattern with which you can identify yourself.

I identify much more in my work with any artist in the world than with a certain Estonian of any field. Artists, they have a burn mark on their forehead. You can always recognise them.

There are some universal beliefs. People who need certainty in their life, who are sure and certain in their expressions – they don’t usually make art. Making art is an everlasting hesitation, a fragile and uncertain activity. You never know what comes out. It’s like beginning a sentence without knowing it’s end. Only those who can bear the weight of uncertainty, can feel themselves at home in creating. The pearl shells that make pearls are mostly damaged.

Do you work on a generic idea, if any, when teaching?
The best sources are always in yourself, the question is how to tame these tigers in the jungle of your psyche and how to get closer to them. It means - trusting your own intuition, at the same time being conscious about what’s going on around. It’s a risky and lonely business. Because of the hectic nature of the world around us it is more and more complicated for the students to concentrate on what they do. Tactics depend on every certain individual case. Sometimes it’s important to remember not to pour too much light to the plant at the beginning of the creative process in order not to destroy the organic growing process. It needs time and patience to enable the root to reach deeper.

In fact, there are rules in schoolwork, but no rules in art. The only everlasting rule is that there are no rules in art.
As head of the department you have the responsibility for the young artists and must continually keep in mind to hold the balance between manual and conceptual qualities in our work. And always allow the diversity of self-expression.
Learning is liberation. Liberation for instance of fear. Huge changes have taken place in providing art education during last years. But not that much in the deeper essence of how to teach. It’s always the personal touch that counts.

Most importantly – you must love your students. What a student (or people in general) needs is in fact very simple – protection, trust and love. The process of creating does not have to be continually elucidated and dragged to full daylight. After all, when a gardener plants a seed he will not tear it our every once in a while to see whether it is properly sprouting and growing. A creator should not betray the secret. In the embryonic phase of creative work concealment is essential. Otherwise the entire harvest could perish. And the tension of creating could vanish. Keeping silent is a well-known method in nature protection (also used by artists). In case of a rare bird or animal species or a fragile stage in the development of nature that needs to be protected, silence prevails at first. It’s fine to talk later.

Something else – creative work is always followed by criticism. If you cannot handle it, you have to quit.

Is there a purpose in itself or only consequence? What do you understand when it is spoken of having an “own language”?
The purpose is not to offer pointless impression, but to tear the viewer away from mundane images, elucidate and purify the glance in order to capture essential reality. And if you do it in the most passionate way – you reach your own language.

Have you had the need of theorizing on your work? First is the idea / concept and perhaps implementation afterwards? How is that process?
In jewellery I am fascinated by its intimacy and the situation where a tiny object may incorporate such a powerful secrecy. Small things contain the secret key to the big ones. I lack the habit and custom and will to interpret my work after their completion. The work either tells you something or it doesn’t. Once you have completed it, then keep quiet. The work must know whether it radiates or not.

It is impossible to talk about the best things, and the next in line are often misunderstood. Then comes civilised conversation. Then small talk. In Siberian taiga, on the other hand, nothing much is said at all, and chattering is completely ruled out. Only the essential deserved to be said. Silence is an invisible glue.

The last work, book, film, that has moved me was…
Through years I’ve noticed more and more loyalty in my preferences in art – in people. There are books that I read over and over again and I don’t feel eager to read so many new books as I feel I haven’t read the old books thoroughly enough. The same goes for people. Once in a while one meets new friends, but I feel careful as old friends deserve much more attention than I can ever afford them… Everything is nice when it’s new, but a friend – when old.

A place, space, country whose creativity surprises me...
There are so many inspiring places in the world, but the most significant of them for me is – Estonia. What makes it so special – the coasts, the forests, the animals in the woods, the pure nature, huge diversity between summer and winter, long dark winters with snow, the howling snow-blind bears – yes, that’s it. Maybe the main qualities and destinies of nations in fact derive from the ratio of light and shadow in the surrounding landscape. But most of all – it’s the metaphysical atmosphere you can feel when living here. And the people. Every spot in the world may be beautiful when there is somebody waiting for you.

As the years pass, people become more intuitive, and external stimuli are no longer as important as catalysts for thought processes, and indeed they can even prove disruptive. Concentration is essential. There is a tradition in Sufi teachings of traveling without leaving home. The teaching here concerns pilgrimage, yet of course the most important destination is a person’s own ground zero, that which connects the individual to the universe is always within and together with a person.

Creativity derives from that feeling. Life is actually a dark space. And the shadow is the queen of colours. And we are directed in this darkroom by unconscious decisions, by stars, by friends, by lovers – and maybe also by jewellery.


Kadri Mälk (1958) – a well known jewelry designer with numerous of valuable awards both in Estonia and abroad. Joanna Adler has said: Mälk is a tree on a bleak area. However she tries, lightening hits on her. She is like a tree of sacrifice bringing the flashes around her into pieces of jewelry. There are things that she tears down back to the basic elements. She knows they wont ever get completely finished.

Her jewels are rich of symbolic details, the author lays special emphasis on the magical-protective meaning of it. Estonian actress Elle Kull has said: After seeing Kadri`s jewels nothing allures me in common jewelry stores. I value individuality in a jewel and Kadri`s jewels seem visually primeval and beautiful to me. There is a power inside. Wearing her jewels makes me feel good and self-reliant.

If you have enjoyed this interview you might be interested on reading the following:
Interview to Florian Ladstätter
Interview to Ted Noten
Interview to Peter Skubic
Interview to Tore Svensson